Tripe Disguised as Omelette Balls

Prof. Dr. Helmut Birkhan is an entertaining figure. When I attended the conference of medieval daily life and material culture of the Institute in Krems, Austria, in 1998, he was one of the more interesting participants. Another person told me he was cooking medieval magic potions with his students as part of their sourcebased research. And when editing a late roman text about Austria, he identified a strange latin word as a mushroom that is still known to exist in modern Austria. In order to underline this fact, he added his favorite recipe to cook this mushroom in a footnote. Obviously a man with taste and with a deep interest in kitchen reenactment!

Bacon frying in the pan, Hallwyl 2005 (Photo by Alain-Gilles Chaussat)

A friend of mine working at Peter Lang Publishers was the personal contact of Prof. Birkhan and she furthered my admiration with a constant flow of anectdotes like this. I have not met Prof. Birkhan again. However, two years ago, my grandmother offered my a wonderful gift for Christmas. The fact, that Helmut Birkhan had played a role in the publication contributed to my grandmother's success:

Doris Aichholzer (Ed.): "Wildu machen ayn guet essen ..." Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher: Erstedition, Übersetzung, Kommentar (Wiener Arbeiten zur Germanischen Altertumskunde und Philologie. Edited by Helmut Birkhan), Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt a.M. et al. 1999. (link)

This is a quality edition of three Middle High German books of recipes with modern translation, a modern German index and a glossary of the medieval expressions. The collections being edited are the cookbook of Mondsee 1439/40 (Cod. 4995), the book of recipes of Innsbruck likely 1451 (Cod. 5486) and the cookbook of the Dorothea Monastery in Vienna dated to the 15th century and partially to the 14th (Cod. 2897). This edition is a marvel that is even furthered by the very good commentary. I am sticking to what I said about cookbooks in general a few weeks ago. But once you have your whitelist of ingredients, then cookbooks come in handy as they describe the typical ways of preparation. I like the following recipe for example:

Knedeln von kuteln


[N]im gesoten scheffein kuteln, herte ayr, ein wenig weiß protz, salvay, saltz. Hakch das klain und meng gesniten spekch dortzü rohe ayr und saffran und mach dann pellein als ayr und pach sy in der suppem in ein kar. wenn sy erherten, so erwell sy in dem ayr tayg. Stöz sy an einen spis, prat sy, gib sy hin.

Cookbook of the Dorothea Monastery in Vienna, fol 23v, first half of the 15th Century.

So you take cooked tripe from sheep, boiled eggs, some white bread, sage and salt. Cut it into small pieces and add bacon, raw eggs and (if you can afford it) saffron. Form this into egg-sized balls and boil them in a soup. When they are done, roll them into a dough of eggs, put them on a stick and bake them.

This is the only tripe recipe in the book. This compares to eight liver recipes. So much on the former popularity of tripes. The recipe shows cooking as an iterative process. This is not convenience food readymade in a pan. Instead, the tripe is cooked, cut, cooked again and finally baked. And it is being disguised in a way you will not recognize it again. I do not think this is limited to tripe, but it is a great example of this medieval art: You start with tripe and you end up with baked objects in the form of eggs, covered in an omelette dough. Ideally, the are tasting of sage and saffron.

This is going to be one of the recipes at our Nykøbing event, where we are portraying a noble household. Maybe we are serving the balls with cameline sauce which was featured in this blog last week. Last Saturday, we finished the plan of dishes for Nykøbing. All in all it's going to be fifty different dishes in six days. I get the feeling this is a bold plan.

More kitchen news reached me from Gruyères Castle today: Conservator Raoul Blanchard found a way to open the chimney above the medieval kitchen. This means the kitchen is ready to be used at one of our future events. Huzzah to that discovery! Photos from our last stay in Gruyères will be presented here in the blog in one of the next posts by the way.

By Christian Folini, Veteran Company member.

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